Three years ago poultry farmer Kagalelo Matlala from Kuruman in the Northern Cape had a life-changing epiphany that she couldn’t ignore.
She realized that her family’s small poultry business was about more than just putting food on their table. Matlala realized that agriculture could be the vehicle that would free her family from the prison of poverty.
Today, the spunky 27-year-old considers herself a driver of influence and is on a mission to co-create an army of Kuruman #SheBosses – a term she uses to refer to female entrepreneurs.
“Agriculture has been the best thing I have ever done. In this sector I have found peace and financial freedom. Young people think that it’s a nasty sector and fail to realise the economic value of the industry. There’s so much potential in farming and the pie is big enough for all of us,” Matlala says.
Matlala runs a small poultry business called Lelo’s Poultry Farm. She farms with 300 chickens that produce around 150 eggs per day which she sells to people in her community.
She took over the business from her parents in 2018. They started farming in 2008. They had about 100 chickens at the back of their yard in a small chicken shack. Coming into the business, Matlala noticed that her parents were struggling to sell their stock.
“They would stop selling and then start again; stop selling and then start again. I realised that my parents struggled due to a lack of financial knowledge and poor education.”
She adds that running a business in the village wasn’t easy for her parents. “Customers would buy on credit and never pay at all. I think a lack of access to technology also played a role.”
But that all changed when Matlala, who is also a foundation phase teacher, stepped up to the plate. The entrepreneur recently started making use of digital marketing via Facebook and Twitter to boost sales and says that finding a market for her eggs has not been difficult.
“My market has always been people in our local villages, but since promoting online, my market has grown. My eggs are always selling, because people are always putting in their orders,” she says.
“I have had many challenges. Because I am employed as a teacher, I don’t qualify for agricultural funding from government and agri-businesses.”
“People started noticing me and what I do. That did not only grow the market, but it also gave birth to influence. Young people have started noticing what I do and growing an interest in farming. For me, that’s sort of the cherry on top,” Matlala admits.
The misconception that farming is for old people, Matlala believes, has been proven wrong countless times. Young people are no longer scared to go for what they want. “Unfortunately, I still meet a lot of people who are horrified by the fact that I touch chickens and I am like, wow guys, sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to see results. It won’t kill you,” she says.
For Matlala, her experience in agriculture has been a journey filled with interesting moments and numerous growth opportunities.
She is a member of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) and Makawana Farmers’ Stokvel in the Northern Cape. She says, “being part of agricultural groups has helped me a lot. Being surrounded by passionate people with the same interests as me has helped me grow and gives me courage to continue farming forward.”
Farming has brought its share of worries for Matlala. “I have had many challenges. Because I am employed as a teacher, I don’t qualify for agricultural funding from government and agri-businesses.”
“I use my own capital to build everything I have. That does not mean I don’t need help or financial assistance to build my business. I do,” she exclaims.
Matlala’s current struggles also include poor infrastructure. She owns only a few cages and finds this challenging because she noticed that baby chickens perform better when they are put in cages.
The young farmer says that due to her location, business is sometimes slow and proving her worth to big companies isn’t always easy. “But that just means that I must push harder,” she says. “I’ve learned that a business grows, no matter how slow.”
The #SheBoss, who is doing an incredible job of inspiring black millennials in the Northern Cape, believes that her farming future looks bright and big.
“I’m a great, successful young woman and I own it. My business is growing and soon I will be able to produce more eggs. The market is there already and it’s on me to make sure that the supply never runs dry. And I intend to.”